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Work-Based Learning Legal Rights

Are you a student or employee interested in your legal rights as a worker?

Organizations offering work-based learning must follow guidelines and laws when providing training to students.

This overview is for introductory purposes only. It's not an official interpretive document. For more detailed information, follow the links in each section or call the Minnesota Department of Education at (651) 582-8386.

Insurance Coverage

Schools and businesses must create safe environments for work-based learners, just as they do for employees, volunteers, and visitors. They should work with their insurance carriers to determine how much insurance coverage they need. They may be liable for damages or injuries caused by work-based learning participants, if the learner is:

  • Acting on behalf of the business; or
  • Acting with the actual or apparent authorization of the business; and
  • Is negligent; and
  • That act results in injury to customers, passers by, visitors, or the general public; or damage to the property of customers, passers by or the general public.

Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) protects the rights, safety, and well-being of youth workers in the United States. Some work-based learning opportunities are subject to the FLSA and some are not. The FLSA specifies certain limits on the employment of minors under the age of 18, along with child labor laws and the minimum wage.

Child Labor Laws

Employers should be aware of both federal and state child labor laws before setting up a work-based learning opportunity. These laws cover issues like age requirements, proof of age, hours of work, prohibited occupations, penalties, overtime, and minimum wages. See the Connecting Youth to Work-Based Learning manual (2.7MB, .doc) produced by the Minnesota Department of Education for more legal information related to work-based learning.

Americans with Disabilities Act

Employers with 15 or more employees must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Some of the ADA requirements that could apply to work-based learning include:

Auxiliary aids and services must be provided to individuals with vision or hearing impairments or other individuals with disabilities, unless an undue burden would result.

All new construction in public accommodations must be handicap-accessible. Elevators are generally not required in buildings under three stories or with fewer than 3,000 square feet per floor, unless the building is a shopping center, mall, or professional office of a health care provider.

Employers many not discriminate against individuals with a disability in hiring or promotion if the person is otherwise qualified for the job.

Employers need to provide "reasonable accommodation" to individuals with disabilities. This includes steps such as restructuring and modification of equipment.

Data Privacy

The federal Family Rights and Privacy Act protects students' records from public disclosure. While employers must receive information on students participating in a work-based program (like a social security number, school grades, or courses taken), this information can't be released without a signed release-of-information form. When the student is under 18 years old, his/her legal guardian must sign the form. Students 18 or over may sign their own form.

Equal Opportunity

Federal Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) laws prohibit educational institutions and employers from discriminating on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, age, disability, sex, marital, or veteran status.

Sexual Harassment

All employees and those students participating in a work-based learning have the right to work in an environment that is free from sexual harassment. Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, sexually motivated physical contact, or other verbal or physical conduct or communication of a sexual nature when:

Submitting to that conduct or communication is made a term or condition of employment/participation in the program; or

Submitting to or rejecting that conduct or communication affects the individual's employment/participation in the program; or

That conduct or communication has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual's employment or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive employment environment, and company management knows or should know of the harassment and fails to take timely and appropriate action.

Students should be taught how to recognize sexual harassment and abuse. They should also receive training regarding the school's and business's sexual harassment policy and reporting procedures.


The federal and state Office of Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) offices regulate workplace health and safety.

Work-based learners working in fields where there is potential contact with body fluid or wastes should receive the Hepatitis A and B series vaccine. Students working in the food service area should also have the Hepatitis A vaccine. Employers are required to offer the Hepatitis B vaccine free of charge to staff members at risk. Employees, however, are not obligated to receive the vaccine, but must sign a copy of OSHA's Hepatitis B vaccine declination if they wish not to receive it. If the person later decides to receive the vaccine, the employer must again offer the series free of charge. In non-paid work experiences, the school is the employer and must provide the vaccine.